Fighter jets remain hot topic on the campaign trail despite increased efforts to make planes more affordable
April 18, 2011
by The Canadian Press
MONTREAL—Canadian suppliers are cutting expenses in hopes of making the Joint Strike Fighter warplane more affordable, the head of Heroux-Devtek said.
“As suppliers on the F-35, we all have the responsibility to reduce our costs,” says Gilles Labbe, who also heads Aero Montreal, a group which represents the world’s third-largest cluster of aerospace companies..
Montreal-based Heroux-Devtek is estimated to have about $1‑million of content on each of the 65 F-35 planes. The planes will cost tens of million of dollars each, but the exact price is still unknown because of politics-based pricing disputes.
U.S. politicians have raised concerns about cost-overruns for this program‑‑the most expensive military procurement in American history‑‑after its value ballooned to more than US$386 billion.
The purchase of the F-35 fighters has remained a hot topic along the federal election campaign trail, but the program is a unique opportunity for Canada’s aerospace sector, says Labbe.
Other Canadian suppliers include CMC Electronics Inc. and Magellan Aerospace.
Magellan has already started production of horizontal tails for all three variants of the fighter jets.
Canada’s order is the first production contract for the new warplane outside the United States.
The Conservatives say the government will spend no more than $9 billion to buy the jets and estimate another $7 billion will be needed to service them over 20 years.
Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page estimates they will cost nearly twice that amount.
Opposition parties have complained the new jets are too costly and that Canada entered into the long-term contract without a competitive bid. There are also allegations that the Conservatives are hiding the true cost of the 65 jets.
And, while the Liberal party has vowed to re-tender the planes if it wins May’s election, the Conservatives suggest scrapping the deal would be too expensive and wouldn’t provide significant savings.